So here is the first one I prepared. I began a second one, and hope to finish it tomorrow.
Example of a written response to a Plenary Council Theme 6 submission
Excerpt from a parishioner in Parramatta Diocese:
"We can no longer have women as second or third class citizens in our church. They could become priests in our church and minister to the community."
Women by virtue of the gift of baptism are as much children of God and heirs to the promise of eternal life as baptised men are. Women are called to holiness and mission through baptism as much as men are. For the times we have not proclaimed this truth, as a church we beg forgiveness.
Through baptism and confirmation the charisms of the Holy Spirit are poured out upon the children of God for the building up of the kingdom of God. It is the responsibility of leadership in the church to notice, encourage, develop and co-ordinate the people upon whom the Holy Spirit has given charisms. For the times we have failed to this, as a church we beg forgiveness.
The vast majority of the miracles of Jesus, and the use of the charisms of the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles (for the latter: 39/40), did not take place in the synagogue or temple but in the market squares, in homes, and while travelling. For the times that we have placed pre-eminence on what takes place inside church buildings, and neglected to celebrate how God is using His sons and daughters outside the church buildings in works of mercy, works of evangelism, works of healing, works of teaching, works of deliverance, works of intercession etc, as a church we beg forgiveness.
Family is important to God. The vocation of father and the vocation of mother have eternal consequences in the lives of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The ministry of father and mother in the life of a child has a far greater impact than any priest will ever have. For the times that we have not balanced the kudos we give to those to go into full time church ministry with the kudos given to the full time ministry of mother and father, as a church we beg forgiveness.
(The 2011 National Faith Life Survey reported that for Catholic newcomers the most significant people in their lives to show them what faith is about were mothers 77% fathers 48% followed by grandparents/spouses/other family all at 16% and teachers, friends, clergy, chaplains at lower levels.)
Secular life is important to God. The good a holy politician, a holy detective, a holy surgeon, a holy football coach, a holy artist, a holy novelist, a holy retailer, a holy hairdresser can do is incalculable, and can often have a longer positive impact than 40 years of priestly preaching can have. For the times that we have not balanced the kudos we give to those who go into full time ministry with the kudos given to those called to holiness in secular vocations, as a church we beg forgiveness.
Whether male or female, you are important to God, and the calling He has placed upon your life cannot be filled by anyone else. Your value does not depend upon how visible your ministry is to others. Your value does not depend on how much decision making power and influence you have. Your value depends upon the quality of your 'Yes' in responding to God's call and your fidelity to that call through both good times and bad times. For the times we have not proclaimed this truth, as a church we beg forgiveness.
Parents know that at times the most loving thing to do is to set boundaries and to say 'no' to their children for the greater good of the whole family. To love like this is not an easy thing to do. More than once the Church has given this loving 'no' to the request for women priests. You can read the official documents Ordinatio Sacerdotis and Inter Insigniores below.
The argument goes something like this: despite surrounding cultures in Old and New Testament times having women priests, the priests of the Temple were male, and the apostles Jesus conferred ordination as priests upon were male. Jesus had extraordinary women in His life, His mother Mary, Martha, Mary Magdalene and others who never betrayed Him and who stood faithfully at His Cross, and yet He did not ordain them as priests. We see in this the will of God, and we must accept it as being an important element in His salvific plan.
In the end what matters is helping each other get to heaven. If you compare the numbers of people converted through Mary, the mother of Jesus, to the numbers of people converted through the apostles, Mary is way out in front and she was never ordained a priest.
Caroline Chisholm, St Mary of the Cross McKillop, Eileen O'Connor, Dorothy Day, Mother Angelica of EWTN, Flannery O'Connor, St Edith Stein, Edel Quinn, Pauline Jaricot, St Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St Gianna Beretta Molla, St Therese of Lisieux, Gabrielle Bossis, Bl Susanna Cabioie are women with whom God has done great things, as lay women and as religious. In their lives much inspiration can be found.
Others are not household names, but the mother of St John XXIII, the mother of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, the mother of Archbishop Polding, the mother of Frederic Ozanam lived extraordinarily fruitful lives for God.
A loving parent will understand that the child who asks for lollies is actually hungry, and will steer the child away from the lollies towards food with high nutrition, and will ride out the protests until the child eventually develops a taste and hunger for what is beneficial. In the Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem by St John Paul II is an uplifting vision of the role of women in God's plan of salvation. No woman who reads it will ever feel like a second or third class citizen again.
From time to time movements spring up, and it takes careful discernment to work out whether they are movements of the Holy Spirit, movements of the Holy Spirit that got hijacked by the enemy, movements of the enemy or movements of the enemy that got hijacked by the Holy Spirit.
For example in hindsight and with the benefit of Humanae Vitae we can see that the push for oral contraceptives was not of God and of great detriment to humanity. The dissatisfaction with the first English translation of the Mass has eventually given us a much better translation that is slowly bearing good fruit. The #MeToo movement has brought a lot of necessary things into the light, but it has been hijacked whenever false accusations have been made.
The movement of women into more visible arenas of ministry may be a work of God, but it is still too jumbled up with various ideologies for definitive discernment to be made. We can hope and pray that the Holy Spirit hijacks this one.
G. K. Chesterton argued that there were four things wrong with the world to the detriment of family: big business, big government, public education and feminism.
For a modern analysis of feminism Mary Pride's 'The Way Home: Beyond Feminism Back to Reality' is recommended reading:
The push for equal pay for equal work had positives, but it did stop employers being able to pay the fathers of families more than single women, the net result of which is both parents needing to be in the workforce to provide for a family.
The push for voting rights for women had positives, but it has ended up with us voting as individuals, whereas in former times a man voted with the understanding that he was voting as the representative of his family and for the welfare of his family.
We currently see a push for women to be directly included in the decision making processes of the Church.
One reason given is that it would prevent further child abuse. @noplaceforsheep has this response: 'The notion that more women in positions of authority in churches will somehow prevent child sexual abuse is not borne out by the experience of victims in non-institutional and familial settings. There are women aplenty in these settings, mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, friends, grandmothers, the majority of whom are unable or unwilling, for very many complex reasons, to prevent a child being sexually abused. The notion that parachuting women into middle management in the churches will stop any paedophile in his tracks is insultingly ludicrous. It will not.'
Interviews to obtain the input of mothers of the victims of child sexual abuse will be needed, as by and large their stories have not yet been told.
To understand the next counter argument, reading 'Dressing with Dignity' by Colleen Hammond is necessary:
In it she makes the valid point that women are unaware of how frequently a man's thoughts are occupied by sex. One of her conclusions is that if women decide to dress modestly then there will be more space in the thought lives of men to think of God and to receive the grace of conversion. By and large women have a blind-spot about this, and need to talk to a man they trust who can verify the truth of this argument to them.
When you introduce the presence of a woman into the deliberations of a group of men, two things happen. The presence of the woman is distracting: those pesky thoughts of sex arise. The men enter into riskier and more competitive behaviour to attract her attention and approval. Neither assists the deliberations of a group of men on weighty matters.
The Church is a theocracy, and not a democracy. Our popular world view of 'no regulation without representation' does not apply. In biblical Israel decisions were made with an anointed leader and the heads of tribes and clans, and elders of the people. Each one represented and made decisions on behalf of his whole tribe, clan or family or village as the situation required. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/elder
When Jesus comes along we have the new Israel of God, with the Apostles symbolically representing the 12 tribes as heads of those tribes. With the bishops as successors to the Apostles, they represent each diocese and speak for each diocese just like the heads of tribes and clans did. There is a biblical basis for this.
Even a Mother Superior or Abbess does not represent as many people as a bishop does.
But only a fool does not consult with his people before he goes to represent them in decision making, the ones he trusts are close to God and have experience and insight into the situations under discussion. In the history of the Church whenever God raises up men and women of outstanding wisdom and holiness, you see bishops making their way to consult them. St Hilda of Whitby, Marthe Robin, Blessed Anna Maria Taigi, St Hildegard of Bingen are some of the women in those ranks, St Bernard of Clairvaux, St Martin de Porres, St Nicholas of Flue, St Charles of Sezze are some of the men in those ranks.
If we took this whole idea that family is important to God, and that God's preferred method is for leaders to seek counsel from elders, then that has ramifications for parish councils and similar bodies. Currently when it comes to parish councils there is an emphasis on people volunteering and seeking a demographic microcosm of the parish in the resulting parish council. What if, instead, membership was for those whom the community recognised as elders because they were men with long standing roots in the community, whose children had all kept the faith, and due to grandchildren were now leaders of a considerable tribe. It would keep to the biblical principle, that if you are faithful in smaller things (family) then God will trust you with greater things (community) and would provide motivation for men of all ages to take a more active interest in the formation of their children. The beauty of such a model is that it makes someone qualified to be an elder, and potential elders of the future, easy to spot.
Studies have shown that the highest predictor for the faith outcomes for a child is the faith level of the father. If the father takes the things of God seriously, so will his children. If the father is ambivalent about the things of God, then his children will be so too.
Which is better, to be a hero, or to be a hero maker? Hero Maker by Dave Ferguson explores this question. 'Everyone wants to be a hero. Yet only a few understand the power in being a hero maker.' 'A hero maker is a leader who shifts from being the hero to making others the hero in God's unfolding story.'
Every woman, through physical maternity and/or spiritual maternity, has the raw material to be a hero maker. That is where her gifts and talents can really shine, even if they may not bear visible fruit in her children and spiritual children until those children and spiritual children are much older. Any woman like Priscilla who sees the increased potential a preacher like Apollo could have, and sets about investing the time and energy and prayers of her family to making that happen, is a hero maker (Acts 18:26). Likewise, who can measure the impact of St Hilda of Whitby into whose care God entrusted the formation of five future bishops?
'Vive la difference!' God has created us uniquely as men and women, with distinct inbuilt differences designed for our mutual enrichment. It is only our differences that we have to offer in our relationships. It is our differences that make teamwork worthwhile, because tasks can be assigned to the relative strengths of the team members. If a team needs to accomplish task A and task B, and both team members are only good at task A, they will have a lesser outcome that if one team member is good at task A and the other is good at task B. The gifts proper to masculinity and femininity matter. A man acting like a woman and a woman acting like a man is beneficial to no one.
We are naturally attracted to differences not to similarities. It can be easier to see why differences are attractive from a tutorial in what makes art more visually interesting, exemplified in the work of Nicholas Wilson and his Art2Life video tutorials eg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAGhJZ70JSY
In March 2019 Bishop Barron and Jordan B. Petersen had a wide ranging conversation that was recorded: https://www.wordonfire.org/peterson/
Of the many things they spoke of, two of them stand out:
The first is Bishop Barron talking about the necessity of right order for right worship, and when there is right worship the blessing of God flows. It means that getting the whole priesthood-laity, leadership-decision making, male-female, family relationship stuff right, and getting it right God's way, really matters.
The second is Jordan B. Petersen speaking about the antipathy his daughter is facing on many fronts because she has a desire to become a wife and mother. This is a huge eye-opener to how far we have fallen from the command of God 'to be fruitful and multiply' and to how anti-family our western world has become. This is the real battlefield.
The following is not an easy article to read due to the events it describes, but it is an accurate description of what many women have lived through and are living through:
It is women like this that we as a Church need to reach with the Gospel. Seeking God's wisdom in how to do this will be crucial, but one thing is clear; only other women will be able to get through to them, and only women will be able to accompany them through the healing and forgiveness process. This is another aspect of the real battlefield.
The flip-side is that there are many men that we need to reach with a radical call to repentance.
The final word belongs to St John Paul II:
'The personal resources of femininity are certainly no less than the resources of masculinity: they are merely different. Hence a woman, as well as a man, must understand her "fulfilment" as a person, her dignity and vocation, on the basis of these resources, according to the richness of the femininity which she received on the day of creation and which she inherits as an expression of the "image and likeness of God" that is specifically hers.' Mulieris Dignitatem 10e
The next blog-post in this cycle will be the second of two sample answers to questions raised in the submissions to the Listening phase of the Plenary Council for Theme 6: Open to Conversion, Renewal and Reform.
At the very end of the cycle I will put it all together in a printer friendly PDF.